5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from a Micro-Manager

5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from a Micro-Manager

When I was in my early twenties, within the space of about three weeks I lost my job, my grandmother passed away (her funeral was on my birthday, no less), my dog died, and I became fairly ill. It was like a country song gone bad.

During that season, I worked for a guy that was a micro-manager. I was in a job that stretched me, for sure. But I was willing to work on the things that I didn’t know, and I was committed to do whatever I needed to make things work with my boss.

No matter your situation there are leadership lessons that you can learn. Regardless of circumstances, there are always “take-away’s.” These are lessons you can learn if you give it a little thought and reflect on your experiences.

Here are five such lessons I learned from my experience working with a micro-manager:

Be willing to work on your differences

One of my takeaways from that experience is to always be willing to work on the things that make you different. Everyone has unique gifts and strengths to bring to the table.

What are your strengths? What are your boss’s strengths? What are your subordinate’s strengths? What differences are there? How can your differences complement one another?

If you sit down and go through these, chances are you’ll find that your strengths and even differences complement each other and, if you use them correctly, can really move your team from being so-so to being awesome!

Hire the right people for the right position.

Knowing about strengths and personality can also help on the front end. Before you ever hire someone, it would serve you well to perform a personality test and a strengths assessment. Using these two things can tell a boss or hiring manager up front if they are the right person for the position you’re hiring for (and, just as importantly, if they’re not).

There are a number of professionals that use the Stengthsfinder 2.0 assessment for hiring. Leadership guru and virtual mentor, Michael Hyatt, is one of them.

Give people the freedom to do their jobs.

Once you hire a person, you’ve just given that person your endorsement. If you feel a need to micro-manage, then the insecurity is really with yourself. So, back off and let the person do what you’ve hired them to do.

Give your new hire time to adjust to the new position, responsibilities, and culture. If you discover they need additional training for technical skills, then provide

If you discover that someone is not as proficient as they first seemed? You have at least two options:

  • Provide more training.
  • Let them go and rehire that position.

The issue with the second option is that it usually will cost you more to re-hire than to invest in some training.

Develop your people as needed.

Every company should have a training culture. The best companies know that it is easier and cheaper to train staff than to rehire for those positions.

Few people come into a new job or position knowing everything they need to know. Whether it’s a matter of training on company culture and process or learning new hard skills, there is a learning curve for every job. (Even for people that move within a company, different departments can even have their own unique culture within the overall company culture.)

Investing in training leads to more engagement and better retention of employees. Commit to a culture of training and development.

Work on Yourself as the Leader

There are a number of companies that have a great training culture…initially. Does your company continue to develop and encourage the development of its employees beyond the first few weeks or months?

Amazon’s training includes a 1-month initial training program as well as prepays 95% of employee’s tuition for in-demand fields.

Bonobos, a leading retail company, has multiple offerings to train their employees in leadership, management and customer service.

Randstad US not only offers programs in management, leadership, communication, and presentation skills, but also offers its employees both mentoring and coaching services.

As you may have gathered, my boss was not committed to working on things as I was, and I was let go. It was disappointing, but I definitely did learn a lot from that experience.

There are some things that both of us could have done to really make that situation better. I have learned to be a better communicator. The pastor I worked with could have committed to working on the relationship and helping me get better instead of asking me to leave immediately.

It may not have been the right position for me anyway; however, that’s why it’s so important to know more about people on the front end of hiring. I definitely believe that every company, every boss, and every hiring manager could benefit from doing their due diligence before they hire anyone. And every company can engage their employees by providing training to get them familiar with the company culture and continue to develop them as leaders and people.

What does your company do before hiring someone? What kind of on-going training do you provide? 

[photo credit: Nosnibor137 and Bigstock Photo.]

Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

Have you ever wondered what makes some teams great and some, well, duds? So have I. I’ve been on teams that work really well together and are downright a blast to be a part of. I’ve been on others where I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. For many people, it may be a mixture of both fun and frustrating.

In working with a number of different teams, I’ve noticed a common thread among the ones who work really well together. There are certain characteristics that make these teams click. Lack of any of them, however, can cause any number of team dysfunctions.

Super-fun teams are good at collaboration

Fun teams work well together and have an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. If you’ve ever experienced working with people you don’t trust, you know how stifling that can be. And, it just takes one person to ruin an environment of trust.

You would think trust takes a lot of time to develop. The fact is, trust can be developed very quickly and that foundation can continue to be built upon. According to Stephen Covey, there are 13 behaviors you can us to develop what he calls “the speed of trust.”

Collaboration is a by-product of a high-trust environment. You can see this in those with whom you work. You tend to work well with those you trust and avoid those you don’t. The partnerships you seek are with people you know you can trust – for obvious reasons.

As you look at your team – how would you rate your level of collaboration?

Super-fun teams exhibit effective communication

Teams and co-workers communicate all the time. But is it effective? Have you moved forward with a project, only to find out at the end, that you weren’t given all the critical details?

When your team communicates effectively, it will increase productivity and significantly effect your bottom line, as well as overall team morale. People will feel more engaged and a critical part of the process.

What is the level of effective communication within your team?

Super-fun teams know when it’s time for celebration

I’m a part of a team that loves to celebrate. Whether it’s someone’s birthday, or a new team member comes on board or leaves, we celebrate. (And, no, we’re not celebrating the fact they’re leaving but going on to new adventures!)

The celebration usually centers around food, as well as the person we are celebrating. There is eating, laughing, conversation, eating, more laughing, sometimes singing, maybe a game or two (but not always), eating, frivolity, and did I mention eating? 🙂 Usually there is a theme, and it’s based on something that the person we’re celebrating likes.

We do our best to not talk about work (for the most part we are very successful). It’s not time to check in on business, but it is time for a party. We have lots of fun and don’t worry about work.

So, you may know these things already. The question then becomes, how do we make the above a reality? One of the best ways I know of to increase all of these is through a combination of icebreakers and team building activities.

That’s why I wrote a brand new book of these kind of exercises called, 10 Super Fun Team Icebreakers and Challenges. In it, you’ll find 10 team building activities that have never been printed anywhere else.

super fun team ebook

These are activities that I’ve spent the last few months creating and designing for teams just like yours. Whether you need better collaboration, communication, or you just want a day of celebration, these exercises will help your team, all based on the superhero theme.

You can use these activities one at a time, or you can group them together for a Super-Fun team adventure. Or do a half-day event by picking and choosing a few of the challenges. You decide.

Here’s a sneak peek at the book.

Right now, you can order the book for only $10. It not only includes the activities, but also has suggestions for how to use the book, instructions for how to facilitate each activity, and also (my personal favorite) a “Deep Dive” section where you can take the activity further and dig into the challenges even more.

If you end up buying the book and do some of the activities, please let me know. I’d love to know how it goes – send pictures, email me with how it went – who knows, maybe you and your team will even be featured on the blog or my social media accounts (with your permission, of course!)

5 Quick and Easy Holiday Team Building Activities

5 Quick and Easy Holiday Team Building Activities

Need some team building activities for the holidays? Here are five different ones that you can use as stand-alone activities or put them together for one amazing holiday gathering.

Each activity comes with instructions, and you can even download a 4-page PDF guide of this post at the end to take with you to your holiday party or team meeting. (The PDF includes additional ideas not listed in the post.)

1. Snowflake

Also called the Paper Tear activity, this exercise shows the importance of communication and clarifying instructions. This activity can be done with smaller teams as well as large groups.

Instructions:

Hand everyone a piece of paper. Once everyone has receive a piece, instruct them that this exercise is to be done with all eyes closed and in silence (except for the rustling of the paper.) Participants are not allowed to ask questions of you, their neighbor, or make comments about the process until it is completed.

Ask everyone to close their eyes and to follow these instructions exactly:

  1. Fold your paper in half.
  2. Fold it in half again.
  3. Tear off the top right corner.
  4. Fold your paper in half length-wise.
  5. Tear off the bottom left corner.
  6. Rotate your paper.
  7. Fold it in half again.
  8. Tear off a piece from the middle

Say, “If you followed these instructions exactly, all of your papers should look the same. Open your eyes and unfold your paper.” At this point, have them compare their papers with those around them.

Debrief questions:

What was it like to follow the instructions?

How hard or easy was it to not be able to clarify?

How does this resemble communication in your organization?

What ways could this process be improved/changed?

2. Helium Peppermint Stick

This is a variation on the helium stick team building activity. One year with a student leadership group, I wrapped red electric tape around a thin, long piece of PVC pipe to make it look like a peppermint stick. Depending on your team, you can create a story to go with this activity:

Santa’s elves have lost one of their peppermint sticks. It appears they’ve accidentally dropped some of the reindeer dust on it because it has a tendency to float up. It’s fairly fragile and very light weight. Because we don’t want to break it, we’re just going to use our index fingers to touch it. In order to reverse the effects of the reindeer dust, we have to set it on the floor as a team. Everyone must be touching the peppermint stick with both index fingers, and they must remain touching it the whole time.

This activity takes a lot of communication and cooperation to complete. It’s much harder than it seems at first.

Debrief questions:

  • What worked well during this activity?
  • What was your communication strategy in the beginning?
  • How did that change over time?
  • What observations did you make during this exercise?

3. Holiday Spectrums

Spectrums is a game that I learned personally from Mark Collard of Playmeo. The game is an icebreaker that asks participants to line up on a continuum based on two choices.

Designate two end points on the spectrum you’ve created. (You can use a couple of small cones, 2 chairs, roll out a long piece of webbing or duct tape, etc.) Tell your group members you’re going to read off what the 2 ends of the spectrum represent. For example, “dog lover” at this end (and indicate which end that would be) or “cat lover” at this end (point to the opposite end of the spectrum). You can choose to move to either end or pick somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter where you go, just pick a spot that you feel represents your answer.

Possible questions/categories for this team building activity:

a. Christmas is (The holidays are) awesome! OR Bah Humbug!

b. Griswold Christmas Lights… or Never put lights up

c. Black Friday shopping… or Stay at home and avoid the crowds!

d. I love holiday traditions… or I love to try new things every year!

e. I use wrapping paper… or I use gift bags.

Get more ideas by downloading the free PDF!

f. Create your own spectrum question(s).

After each person has selected their place, ask them their reason for selecting that particular spot on the spectrum (you don’t have to ask everyone – just get a few responses.)

What can we learn from each other during this activity?

4. Deck the Halls Scavenger Hunt

Option #1

Make a list of holiday items and assign points for each item. The larger or more hard to find items should have more points attached to them.

Give each team a list of the items and a time limit to gather items (typically 1-2 hours). If teams are late, they could face disqualification. I would suggest that you have the teams stay together for this activity. You can designate the teams stay within a certain area or allow them to venture out. (Just be aware that the larger the teams, the harder it will be to stay together if they are allowed outside of a certain area.)

See sample items in the PDF (Free download)

Option #2

This is the “bigger and better” approach to a scavenger hunt. Give each team a small item (small Christmas stocking, candy cane, ornament) and ask them that their job is to go out into the community and ask for something “bigger and better” than what they currently have. The idea is for each team to trade up to the most extravagant item that they can find in a certain amount of time.

Usually you give teams an hour or two to complete the task, meet back at a certain time (or face disqualification), and reveal what each team has been able to come up with. You can select a winner based on size of item or most expensive item. You could also give out other awards such as:

  • Most creative item obtained.
  • Biggest item.
  • Weirdest object.
  • Most likely to be found in a Michael Jackson video.
  • Most likely to be found in our boss’s house.
  • Create your own fun awards!

5. Holiday Mapping (Where in the world?)

Instructions:
Imagine the floor where you are is a map of the world. The center of the map is where we are physically. I will ask a series of questions and you move to the spot on the imaginary map that represents your answer to the question. For example, if I asked “Where were you born?” go ahead and move to that spot now. For each question, don’t worry about being able to afford

Additional question ideas:
a. Where in the world would you like to spend the holidays?

b. What other country’s holiday tradition(s) would you like to learn more about?

c. If you could take a 2-week vacation during the holidays (all expenses paid) where would you go? (You could also ask what they would do there once they’ve moved to their spot.)

d. Where in the world would you like to go for the New Year’s celebration?

e. What place would you absolutely NOT want to visit during the holidays? (This could create some laughs!)

f. <Insert your creative question here.>

After each question, call on a few individuals to name the place where they are and you might ask the reason they chose that particular place.

You’ll have great fun with these activities. Don’t forget to download the PDF (FREE) that also includes ideas for the scavenger hunt items above, as well as additional ideas not listed in this post.

What activities are you planning to use? What other holiday activities do you use for team building? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Quick and Easy Icebreaker Games You Can Do with 1 Piece of Webbing

5 Quick and Easy Icebreaker Games You Can Do with 1 Piece of Webbing

Here are a few icebreaker games you can do with a short piece of 1″ Tubular Webbing. You’ll need one piece of webbing about 15 feet long for each of these activities. If you only have one group (up to 10 or 12 people), you can use the same piece of webbing for each one. If you will be facilitating these icebreaker games for more than one group at a time, then you will need one length of webbing per group.

You can find tubular webbing online, or at local outdoor stores, such as REI. It comes in several different colors, and you want to get webbing that is an inch wide.If you don’t have a local outdoor store near you, you might also find webbing at horse tack shops and/or military surplus stores.

Use these for individual exercises, or group them together for a unique team building experience. I would also recommend using some creative debriefing exercises following each activity if you’re doing more than one.

1. Webbing House

For this icebreaker activity, you will need your length of webbing, and you will also need to print out the following image on a piece of paper:

webbing icebreaker game

The object of this activity is to make the webbing look like the picture. There are 3 levels that a person can enter into (don’t let the participant know what “level” they’ve achieved until after completing it one time.)

Level 1 – The webbing crosses over itself in at least 1 place.

Level 2 – The webbing does not cross over itself at all, but the ends do not touch.

Level 3 – No webbing crosses over itself and the loose ends meet.

After an individual or team has attempted the activity once, let them know what level they entered at, and see if they can “level up” from there. At this point, you can let them know what it takes to get to the next level.

(*Facilitator’s note. I learned this activity from Mark Collard, formerly of Project Adventure. As far as he knows, no one has ever achieved Level 3; however, do not let participants know this. When you debrief with them, you can talk about adventure. Part of adventure is experimenting with what is possible. Would you try something if you knew it wasn’t even possible?)

2. Where ya from/Where ya been?

This activity also uses a circular piece of webbing. The goal of this activity is for each person in the group to:

1.) Share where they are from or a place they have been to recently.

2.) Create a shape with the webbing that represents the place they have described and then share what about that place makes it important to them.

It’s a simple activity, but it’s a great way to get to know your group better. We all have significant places in our history – it’s part of our story. This game allows people to share that part of their story with others.

3. Twice around the block.

This fun icebreaker game helps people introduce themselves in a non-threatening way. You’ll need a piece of webbing for every 5-6 people. The webbing should be made into a circle using a water knot.

The person closest to the knot goes first and lets go of the webbing. As she begins to introduce herself, the rest of the group starts sliding the webbing through their hands so that the knot moves around the circle.

Once the knot goes twice around the circle and ends up back at the person talking, that person’s turn is over, and it moves to the next individual.

If the story is interesting, people can slow the rotation down to hear more about the speaker. If they would like the person’s time to end, they can speed it up! Often, teams will speed up the knot passing, laugh, and then slow it down to let each person have ample time to speak.

4. That’s a Wrap!

Each person takes turn telling a story about themselves. The participant chooses the story and as they talk they begin to wrap the webbing around their index finger. The story ends when all of the webbing is wrapped around the finger.

The person who told the story must unwind the webbing by holding on to the loose outside end, and flinging it through their legs backward. Just don’t hit anyone in the process! 🙂

5. Spectrums.

This is a great get-to-know-you activity where people answer questions based upon where they fall along a given spectrum. For instance: Cat lover or dog lover? Chocolate or vanilla? etc.

Make sure there are no knots or kinks in the webbing and lay the piece of webbing along the ground in a straight line. Also, be sure there is ample room on either end of the webbing, in case more space is needed.

You will ask the group certain questions, and each person will need to position himself or herself along the line according to how they answer each question.

For each spectrum chosen, let your group know which end corresponds to what answer. Participants can line up anywhere along the spectrum. For example, if you say one end represents “Chocolate” and one end represents “Vanilla”, people can choose one end or the other, or anywhere in between.

Ask for some people to share why they chose that specific place along the spectrum. Be creative, and use as many questions as you want. What ways would you like to get to know your team?

What other ways can you use webbing for an icebreaker game? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, and if you decide to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.  Please know that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something but because they are helpful and useful, .  Please only spend money on these products if you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your or your team’s goals.

[caption photo courtesy DaveOlsen, Flickr]

 

A Team Building Activity Adapted from The Biggest Loser

A Team Building Activity Adapted from The Biggest Loser

I’m always looking for new ideas for team building activities. Last night, I was watching The Biggest Loser with my family. We find the show very uplifting and encouraging. One of the activities they did inspired an idea for a team building activity that I want to share with you.

The participants had been on a hike together, and at the peak of their hike, the trainers gave them what looked like a small, folded piece of paper. However, inside of the paper was a butterfly. They were to answer the question, “What is your intention for the remainder of your time here?”

After everyone had shared, they opened up their folder paper, and released a butterfly, symbolizing both their journey of transformation and what their part was going to be in that process until the end.

Ways to Use This Team Building Activity

There are several scenarios where you could use this kind of activity:

  1. Launching a new project and using this with project managers or team  leaders.
  2. In the middle of a project that is heading in the wrong direction. Use it to help re-direct both staff and leaders.
  3. At the end of a project to celebrate accomplishments and talk about what’s next on the horizon.
  4. Taking your team to a new level of trust and authenticity.

How to Set Up This Team Activity

Set up for this activity will be relatively easy. I don’t think you necessarily need to have butterflies folded up in paper pouches; although, if you could pull that off, it would be impressive. (If you live near a Butterfly Pavilion, Nature Center or Botanical Gardens, it might be worth a call to see what’s possible.)

Decide what end result you want to achieve. I talk a lot about setting goals and being intentional about team building activities. To get the most out of them, you have to think about what results you want to achieve. Learn more here.

Begin with a hike or some kind of team activity that isn’t competitive and will focus on change and transformation. You can check out Playmeo for a great database of activities.

At the end of the hike, ask the question (you will need to tweak the question depending on how you want to use the activity):

As we’re looking at this new project, what will be your primary intention you will focus on?

Allow ample time for responses. Encourage everyone to share (but we follow the rule of challenge by choice). After everyone has shared, release the butterflies (or other item – see below for modifications).

Debriefing the Activity

Talk about what people have shared and their commitment to the team and project and that part of the responsibility of the team is to hold each other accountable to our intentions and goals.

[You could also combine this activity with a time of goal-setting and looking at ways to hold the team accountable to goals and intentions.]

Ways to Modify This Activity

Knowing that everyone might not have access to butterflies, here are a few ways that this activity could be modified to use:

  1. Instead of butterflies, you could use helium-filled balloons and release them at the proper time. Talk about ways for the groups intentions to stay on track and not become “deflated” (see what I did there.)
  2. You could do this activity at night and use Chinese lanterns. Light them and release them to symbolize the group’s intentions being shared with everyone.
  3. If you are talking about a project NOT going well, you could ask your team to write on pieces of paper things that are not working well, and at the end of the sharing time, you burn the pieces of paper, symbolizing you are letting go of old ways and then brainstorm of ways to get the project back on track.

How else you use an activity like this for your team? What other ways can you modify it to suit your needs?